I blinked, and suddenly my tiny baby is eleven pounds, and 1/4 of a year old.
He is just one of the many reasons I wish there were more than 24 hours in a day…
He makes my heart so glad!!
Be wise, my son, and make my heart glad…
I blinked, and suddenly my tiny baby is eleven pounds, and 1/4 of a year old.
He is just one of the many reasons I wish there were more than 24 hours in a day…
He makes my heart so glad!!
Be wise, my son, and make my heart glad…
We are continuing to celebrate life! Simeon’s lungs filled with oxygen 36 days ago. Yesterday Simeon’s head was covered with water and oil. He has always belonged to Christ, but yesterday he was officially welcomed into the Church by receiving the sacrament of baptism. He is officially a son of the covenant, heir of God’s Kingdom, full participant in the body of Christ as a member of His bride. Hallelujah! What hope! What a perfect thing to celebrate on the first Sunday of Advent, where we lit the candle of hope. Please rejoice with us and celebrate the life of Christ in our little son.
For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off,
everyone whom the Lord our God calls to Himself.
Go therefore and make disciples of all nations,
baptizing them in the name of the Father
and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,
teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.
And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.
There is no denying that I have been nothing short of a walking pharmacy for the last few years. In the last few months (maybe since June?) I have saved up all my needles and syringes (and a few of the med vials) in order to share another unique perspective on my PAL journey. If I had saved all of them since I started doing injections in late August 2010, all four of my children (THAT is am amazing phrase right there…) could be surrounded by a fort made out of them. Not joking.
But this is what a couple months looks like. Just the injection stuff though. This doesn’t include the 1/4 cup+ full of pills (medications, vitamins, supplements, probiotics) that I took every day.
This is to show a portion, a perspective, on a specific labor of love – just a small glimpse. I want my children to always know how desperately loved they are, how incredibly wanted they are, and how I would give anything (including my own life-blood) for them.
Pregnant with a Rainbow, Part X
Ends & Beginnings
When I got up last Sunday morning, I had no idea what the Lord had in store for our day. I went about our morning like any other Sunday morning ~ pancakes for children, dressing in our Sunday clothes, packing Bibles & coffee cups into the car. More for the sake of having a practice run than actually thinking we needed to, Steven and I threw our hospital bag into the car, and the very last thing I ran back into the house to get was my camera. The drive to church was our normal boisterous fifty minutes. Sunday school and worship were normal too, but for the fact that I preferred to stand in the back & sway a bit rather than sit for two and a half hours. I was noting fairly regular cramping, but only had a few real contractions. Which I had been having on and off for a few days. So I brushed it off as being nothing. We continued with our plans for the day, which happened to be having brunch at our pastor’s house. What a sweet time of food and fellowship! But our visit was suddenly cut short because around 3:15pm I suddenly noticed that I was having contractions… about every four minutes… and they were quickly growing intense. I called my parents to let them know I thought we might need to think about going to the hospital at least to get checked out, and wondered if they could meet us there… but while I was talking to my mother in the span of about three minutes, the tsunami hit.
Wave upon wave, with barely a pause between, the contractions kept coming ~ and hard. Steven took the phone and told my parents we were on our way as quickly as we could. We called the children to clamor into the car, and we said goodbye to our friends. We sped off… and within a couple of minutes, my water broke. In the car. With my children in the backseat. And we were still twenty minutes from the hospital. It was a dramatic drive, to say the least, and the Lord’s angels were clearly His agents of grace toward us as we made our way from one end of the city to the other. I tried to control my breathing, to resist pushing, without scaring my children who sat behind me. Steven kept two hands on the wheel and two eyes on the road, maneuvering the car with some pretty good skill along the way. At 3:40, we pulled into the emergency room drop-off, where my parents and a nurse got me into a wheelchair. I called goodbye & I love you to my children, and told them how proud I was that they were so brave, and was whisked away through the hospital to the maternity ward. At this point, I let the emotions flood through ~ I covered my face with my hands and wept while I tried to breathe in a focused and purposed way to resist pushing. I was not in the mood to have a baby on the elevator. Thankfully, they had a room ready for us; nurses bustled about, bringing in everything they needed for me and my baby. I was bewildered by everything going on around me, and completely disoriented. Weren’t we just sitting on the pastor’s couch talking about things like schooling and coffee and baptism? How is it that I am suddenly here? At the hospital… in, umm, labor?!
Praise the Lord, my own doctor was on call. It was a relief to see him walk in. We waited for a couple more minutes, while my dad passed our children off to my brother, and I was grateful to have my mother & husband on one side of me and two nurses on the other side to help me get through the intense contractions. Apparently I had been in quiet, early labor all morning; and then I guess I started to hit transition suddenly at our pastor’s house; and now that we had arrived at the hospital a few minutes earlier, as soon as my dad ran into the room, my doctor declared it’s time to have this baby.
I felt delirious and overwhelmed. So not prepared for this today. Did not expect the baby to come yet, and definitely had not spent the day expecting it to involve labor & delivery! Talk about a sweet surprise.
Two long, hard pushes (and a couple of screams) later, I was told to open my eyes… as my doctor reached up and placed a purplish, wet, squirming, tiny human on my chest. I could not believe my eyes. He’s here!? Already? Now?!
Amazing. It was 4:06. One hour prior, I was still eating egg casserole and sausages at my pastor’s house. Now I was in a hospital bed, with a circus whirlwind bustling around me, as I tried to get my eyes to focus on my little 5lb 10oz rainbow boy snuggling on my chest.
Simeon James arrived in famous fashion at 36 weeks ~ a bundle of precious little pumpkin peanutty goodness. I still simply can’t put him down. My neck has a continual kink because I can’t stop staring down at him.
Oh! The Lord has heard! He has supplanted our grief with joy!
We are in awe of His good plan.
I did not know when I woke up last Sunday morning, before we got out of bed, that it was the last time my husband’s hand would rest on my belly & play with the baby who was nestled underneath my skin.
I did not know when I was in Sunday school last Sunday morning that it was the last time I would feel my son’s hiccups from inside the depths of my body.
I did not know during worship last Sunday morning that it was the last time there would only be seven of us in our pew, or that it was the last time Asher would sit beside me and try to poke his baby brother’s limbs under my ribs.
I did not know last Sunday morning that it was the last day I would ever be pregnant.
I did not know last Sunday morning that my rainbow was about to break through the clouds for my eyes to behold its beauty firsthand.
And then suddenly it happened.
It was the end. And honestly, it happened so mercifully fast that my brain and heart did not have time or coherency to fight the bittersweet side of it. I did not process until we were home from the hospital that the end of my PAL journeys had arrived.
But what’s beautiful in the Lord’s economy is that ends are also beginnings.
And the end of Sweet Teen’s life in the womb brought a beautiful, dramatic beginning to Simeon’s life in the world of sunshine.
There is a time for everything.
Thanks be to God.
Sweet Teen’s rainbow has burst forth!
We joyfully welcome our precious son
~the Lord has heard, and supplanted our grief with joy~
born on Sunday, October 25th at 4:06pm
5lbs 10oz ~ 19 1/2 inches ~ pumpkin fuzz atop his head
Blessed be the Lord!
For He has heard the voice of my pleas for mercy.
The Lord is my strength and my shield;
in Him my heart trusts, and I am helped;
my heart exults,
and with my song I give thanks to Him.
I waited patiently for the Lord;
He inclined to me and heard my cry.
He put a new song in my mouth,
a song of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear,
and put their trust in the Lord.
Psalm 40:1, 3
This is the Lord‘s doing;
it is marvelous in our eyes.
This is the day that the Lord has made;
let us rejoice and be glad in it.
Praying, when you are Pregnant-After-Loss(es)
I have written before about praying when you are pregnant, both here on Joyful Domesticity and in the Rainbows & Redemption devotional I helped write & edit a few years ago.
Desire and surrender are the perfect balance to praying.
~Paul E. Miller, A Praying Life, p123~
And today, here I am at 36 weeks pregnant with a precious and beloved little rainbow baby, preparing for the marathon that will soon be delivering him from my body into our arms… and I feel nearly at a loss for words at my Father’s feet. I want to pray. I feel like I know what I need to pray for. And yet the words feel so hard to come by. The contractions come more frequently than the words do. My words feel feeble and basic, deft of depth. Are they void of faith too? Lord, have mercy and give me faith in spirit that spills out into faith-filled, faithful words. It is hard to feel like my prayers would have efficacy. It is hard to feel like it even matters. All I can mutter while sitting here and silently speaking with the Lord in my heart is Oh God, I need Your strength and I need You to do the work ~ I need You to establish this work, and I desperately desire Your favor to be upon us.
I am fearful and anxious.
I am both physically and mentally weary.
I am prepared and completely unprepared, simultaneously.
I know God’s in control.
It is both freeing and terrifying to know that I have zero control.
I like meditating on these Scriptures when I have these anxious moments, and turning them into prayers:
Today I am reminding myself of certain truths that I can grab hold of in Scripture, in regard to my child’s life.
The Lord made and fashioned my son in my womb (Job 31:15) just in the same way that He made all other things in creation (Isaiah 44:24), and before even that, He knew my son (Jeremiah 1:5). He not only knew, created, and formed this little baby, but He knows the numbers of his days and sees him even in the secret depths of my womb (Psalm 139:16).
I am begging the Lord to be faithful to my family, to me, to my son ~ that He would deliver this baby from my womb in His perfect timing and cause him to trust the Lord even while he nurses, that not only would He cling to our son once he is born but that even now the tiny faith of my baby would be clinging to his God (Psalm 22:9-10). I am asking the Lord to be the One on whom our tiny baby is leaning even now, and that he will not be afraid when he is plunged into the hard throes of being delivered, and that in due time we all would be praising the Lord together for His provision and strength and deliverance (Psalm 71:6). I am confident that this fruit of my womb is a blessing, an unmerited reward from the hand of God simply because He is gracious (Psalm 127:3).
And so this brings me to my knees, knowing that this entire pregnancy has not only been planned, knitted, and seen by the Lord, but that He continues to hold my life and my baby’s life in His hands… knowing that the end is in sight, and while the unknowns of how and when delivery will happen are outside the reach of my knowledge, it is all in the Lord’s sovereign plan already. I am asking for peace in the waiting and wondering. I am asking for comfort in the face of pain and anxiety.
At just seven weeks, I wrote:
My prayers are no longer eloquent, but have been reduced to a childlike sputtering of short phrases. I walk around in circles feeling like time is slipping by at the rate of a tortoise race while my heartrate feels like a busy jackrabbit. At the heart of it all, I guess my humanity is saying that I want control, that I want what I do to matter and effect a difference. My child is in the coziest place, closer to me than anyone could possibly be in any other physical way—but I have absolutely zero power over what goes on in there. It is a helpless feeling. The helplessness of a child wells up within me, and I feel like a toddler. Those childlike prayers come out, the tantrums happen, I climb helplessly into my Father’s lap when I curl up on the couch with my Bible or my prayer book… and I remember the call of Jesus to become like a child. And I think, oh! That’s exactly what He has done to me right now! He has made me like a child before Him in all of my sputtering, frail helplessness!
At twenty-five weeks, I wrote:
Please grant us hearts that are rejoicing in You, Lord. Make us rejoice! Please give us confidence in You and peace with all people. Remind us of Your presence with us each day, no matter what arises—spotting, nausea, exhaustion—and give us Your power over anxiety. Lord, help me to bring everything to You in prayer. Give me the wisdom not to simply fret, but to rather be filled with thanksgiving so that I can bring You my requests in prayer and praise and supplication. Lord, please remind me that it is Your peace alone that will surpass my understanding, and will guard my heart and my mind in Your own Christ Jesus. When I feel anxiety beginning to take over, bring me to my knees so that Your presence, Your peace, and Your guarding Spirit will be the only thing overwhelming me. Please fill my mind with things that are true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, and commendable. Please take away all things which are unlovely, false, dishonest, and fretful. Make me to dwell on things that You find excellent! Give me a heart that focuses on things that are worth of praise! Use Your people around me, Your Scriptures, Your Spirit that lives within me—to help me practice what You would have me do. And please, in all of these things, send Your peace to be with me and reign over me (Philippians 4:4-9).
At thirty-two weeks, I wrote:
It has not been an easy road for over eight years of seeking to grow our family. But Lord, You have done the work, and You have repeatedly restored us. Desolation has always been followed by restoration. We see Your faithfulness. We have seen it in the darkness and the valleys. We have seen it while dancing on the sunlit mountaintops. Your hand of grace and Your heart of mercy has never been far from us, even when we in our humanity somehow felt far from You.
Therefore, we sing to You and we give thanks to Your holy name. Because while we have felt the cold shady side of being Your children, living tangibly in the realities that You are sovereign even in the most painful and harsh of circumstances, our family is also living proof that You do bring the dawn—and with it, You restore joy.
And now, with the culmination of this PAL journey nearing my fingertips, I pray again:
Oh God my Father, You have been faithful. You have been my food and drink. You have been my peace and strength. You have been my hope and joy. Remind me of these things now while I am feeling weak, isolated, empty. When the contractions grip me, use their power to remind me of Your hands powerfully gripping me. When the pain overcomes me, fill me with Your presence so that the One who overcame the power of sin and death will give me the strength to come through the agony of delivering a child from my body. When the fear and anxiety of unknowns control all my attention, give my heart Your peace because I have confidence that You not only know all but planned all and hold all things.
Give us joy, because You have continually proven that You hear our prayers. Give us confidence, because You daily provide for all our needs. Give us energy, for You are the source of all light and life and strength.
Give me words to speak and pray that are glorifying to You. And remind me that eloquence is not Your measure of faith, but a contrite heart and open hands. These are what I offer to You today, my King and my God. Be near to me, near to my son. Don’t let us go.
Anxiety is unable to relax in the face of chaos;
continuous prayer clings to the Father in the face of chaos.
~Paul E. Miller, A Praying Life, p71~
I am asking for big blessings. Big strength. Big faith. Faith that will be far more precious than gold, for it has been tested and tried, given and proven. May the Lord’s blessing be upon us as He establishes the work of our hands and knitting of His covenant child in my womb. Amen.
A needy heart is a praying heart. Dependency is the heartbeat of prayer.
~Paul E. Miller, A Praying Life, p24~
My PAL Body
At eighteen weeks with Sweet Teen, I pulled out my maternity clothes. Regular jeans had to be retired to the drawer a couple weeks before, but even my shirts got to the point of needing a bit of the maternity stretch and ruching to feel comfortable or even remotely chic. It was around 18 weeks that I felt like I turned into more of a whale. Perhaps I was hiding my belly really well before, or maybe it did just pop out because of a growth spurt… but the baby bump eventually became undeniable and the clothing needed to adapt. It is bittersweet—I know that I only have a limited amount of time left to wear my maternity clothes, which hold so many various memories. I realized that I should eat up this opportunity to wear my maternity clothes because I will have the rest of my life to wear regular clothes, but before I know it, I will be packing away (or giving away) my maternity clothes for good. So it was time to embrace the dresses that are longer in front, the jeans with the hilarious stretchy panels in front, the shirts with elastic in the sides so they look ruched and snuggly. Until about 18 weeks, I had honestly still been trying to hide this belly—but not only did that that pretty much become unrealistic at that point, but also I just realized that it is a privilege to have this belly, and I needed to not be worried about covering it up. There are occasional times when I know I will be around someone who is struggling with infertility, and I take the extra thought not to look too obvious about my belly if I can help it, but even then… well… here are the maternity clothes, for the honor of being round, for the comfort of wearing something that actually fits well, for the joy of feeling chic rather than frumpy.
I love the fact that my body shows the outward physical signs of an inward growing little life—this roundness that is inescapable & undeniable. Ever since about nineteen weeks, even when I would lie down, the roundness remains, rather than disappearing somehow by the force of gravity and spreading out in my abdomen to my hips as it did when I would lie down before then. I love this bump! I have sacrificed so much for the baby who makes my body change into this shape! There is nothing in the world I want so much as to continue growing to accommodate the growing precious person who inhabits this part of my body!
Yet I do feel unfamiliar in my own skin, uncomfortable in my daily-changing shape, unacquainted with the shifting of bones and muscles that takes place to make way for a growing baby and the growing womb in which it snuggles. I have long had a difficult relationship with my body, both how it looks & how it functions. My struggle to grow my family, and the recurrent miscarriages recent years have held, have magnified this struggle. It’s made a very private struggle much more public. And now it’s the aches and pains and pressures, plus nine months of nausea, that are a double-edged sword, reminding me how imperfect my body is, but also how miraculous it is that it is a healthy living baby that has caused these particular maladies right now!
I do love this body and what God has been doing in it and with it. I am—some moments—enamored with its changes. I catch my breath when I walk by a floor-length mirror, and see the round protrusion reflecting back at me. It’s me! There is a roundness in the center that wasn’t there before, and I can hardly believe that a living baby is the precious little culprit behind that masterful magic trick! I am fond of the bruises which remind me of the sacrifices I make by giving myself all these injections. I am entertained by the way my abdomen becomes cone-shaped when I laugh as I lie in bed, and my belly button squirms with each chuckle until it eventually pops inside-out.
My physical frailty and emotional instability continue to remind me that I am made of dust! I am so thankful for the endurance granted by the Lord, the gracious nature of a diligent husband, the cheerful strength of resilient children. I praise the Lord for giving me spiritual fruit even when I feel like the physical productivity I so often rely on slips through my fingertips. God is good, and He is here. This is the work of His hands.
To give you a smaller, easier-to-get-through glimpse into my second PAL ultrasound with Sweet Teen last spring, here is a lens I call Second Glance.
I am just as nervous as last time,
my bladder isn’t quite as filled.
Walking into the hospital now
makes me anxious rather than thrilled.
I hold my husband’s hand so tight
and bounce my knees as I sit,
waiting to hear the nurse call my name,
praying we’ll soon know everything’s all right.
The same sonographer is ready for me,
we recognize one another from before—
I breathe deeply, follow her steps,
lie down on the table, squeeze hubby’s hand some more.
The questions are asked, the gel squirts out,
I scrunch my eyes, too afraid to see—
But, there it is! I hear my hubby say,
So I glance up: there you are, bouncing & wiggly!
My eyes fill with tears, my breaths quicker now,
trying to grasp with my brain, things look good!
My fears and anxieties give ‘way to relief
as I look at my baby, as thankful as I should.
How can this be? that our dreams might come true?
Suddenly I wonder, as I look up at you,
so small on that screen, but with fingers, even toes!
How did this miracle ever happen? Oh, God only knows!
We’re sent away with pictures
to take home to other kids,
we leave with happy goosebumps,
ear-to-ear smiles, tears in eyes, and one more kiss.
I dream of you, my tiny baby,
whether my eyes are open or shut,
you are with me every moment,
and in my prayers unceasingly yet.
What a comfort to see you today,
in the secret places our Creator only knows,
to know your heart beats steadily,
your body’s form and functions grow.
With joy we update family and friends,
and toast your precious life,
we praise our God for giving us
this glimpse of hope and light!
Generally, I err on the side of verbosity.
Today, I think less is more.
This journey, this roller coaster, continues ~ and my hands are up in the air. My heart still races, my hair still flies, my flesh still gets covered in goosebumps…
After previously giving you a small glimpse into the nuance of pregnancy-after-loss that is anxiety, I wanted to share with you a longer snippet: the account I wrote of my first ultrasound with Sweet Teen, many months ago now. But still fresh in my mind. This is a way to share with you some of the very real anxieties mixed with joys. To give you a more long-winded version of one short experience, in a long series of appointments, milestones, and months of pregnancy.
This happened when our baby boy was only seven weeks old. I’ve held babies that age in the palm of my hand before.
And I call this, First Look:
Mommy, where are you going? I heard you say Grandmama was coming over today. Why? My little-big boy asks. I breathe deep, and kind of chuckle to myself seeing my husband leave the room—I wonder if he is standing in the next room listening in, or if he is avoiding hearing the conversation, or if he even heard the question in the first place. To me, all of a sudden my ears are ringing and my palms are getting a little sweaty. Another sigh, and I step close to my son. I kiss him on the head and I smile at him. Do you remember the special camera that gets put on Mommy’s tummy when there is a baby inside? The one that lets us see into the secret places where God does some of His most amazing work? And we get to take little peeks at our babies? My son’s eyes get big and he says, I love that machine Mommy! I love getting to see our babies! Do you get to go see our baby today? I smile at him, Yes honey, we get to see our baby. But remember—this is the first time seeing this baby, so we technically don’t know what is going on inside Mommy. Remember how sometimes, in the past, I have come home from appointments to tell you that God said yes, and other times God has said no? Well, we don’t know what God is doing, so we just get to keep praying for life and hoping for big miracles. He smiles at me, hugs my tummy tight, reassures me that he will be praying all day, and reminds me that God is good when He says yes and He is also good when He says no.
The faith of a child. I understand Jesus calling us to become like children in our faith.
My son preaches to me with his words and his eyes.
My frame was not hidden from You,
when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in Your book were written, every one of them,
the days that were formed for me,
when as yet there was none of them.
Hours drag. Nerves bubble up.
I drink a big bottle of Perrier—I am supposed to drink over thirty ounces of water anyway, so it might as well be the good fizzy stuff that settles my topsy-turvy tummy.
My mother arrives just as I have braided my hair, put on a cozy sweater, and put on makeup. I avoid mascara, but take a leap of faith and go ahead with eyeshadow and eyeliner anyway. If I end up bawling my eyes out, it won’t be too bad that way, but at least I feel prettier with some sparkle above my nervous eyes—and if I am going to be a nervous wreck, I might as well be a pretty one.
I kiss my three little children goodbye. I remind my oldest that he can be praying, and that I am proud of him for being such a brave boy, such a faithful big brother. I promise to call him, even though my mother says she doesn’t want me to call. Before I walk out the door, my boy kisses me—then he draws a cross on my forehead with his right thumb, a faithful seriousness across his face and an empathetic glint in his eye. I know that deep in his soul, he is praying for me—and praying for his littlest sibling’s life. I feel the blessing of God as his thumb traces the cross above my brow and remember Who is bearing my burdens for me—even right now, even in this moment, even as I take the next step in a terrifying and unpredictable journey.
The drive feels long. It’s nearly thirty miles to begin with, but it feels longer. We don’t talk much, my husband and I—our nerves are edgy and prickly, neither of us quite wanting to voice our deepest fears. I feel like I am driving to the guillotine. The other shoe is about to drop. I don’t want to let go of these hopes and joys and dreams that have been building up in me. But the veracity of reality is about to look me in the face… and my skin gets covered in goosebumps because ignorance can be bliss, and knowledge fearsome.
My husband parks the car in the familiar parking lot. The hospital. The place where I have faced both life and death repeatedly. It’s a wonderful place—a horrific place. We pray. It is a simple prayer that my husband speaks, honest and vulnerable—not doubting or hopeful—simply requesting our Father to be with us, and begging His mercy upon the life we have not yet looked at with our eyes but know His eyes are always there.
Getting out of the car and walking into the hospital is painful—partly because of memories that are dancing in my head and partly because my bladder is close to exploding. The irony of asking pregnant women to overload their bladders with thirty-two ounces of water in the hour prior to an ultrasound is almost insane. I wiggle slightly back and forth while I check in, and I ask the receptionist, I’m not supposed to use the bathroom, right? She smiles knowingly and shakes her head. Okay, I say with a sigh and a forced grin, just thought it was worth asking. I guess it might be my way of communicating to her that I was more than ready for my appointment, and would appreciate being seen in a timely manner.
We sit down in the waiting area. A couple other people are waiting, too, reading magazines, looking at their feet. Elevator music fills the area. I squirm and rock side to side in my chair, willing my bladder to stop throbbing. A mere three minutes later, I hear a young woman speak my name. I look up—she is almost angelic—the sonography intern, telling me they are ready, and will take me back early so that I can go potty as soon as possible. Oh! I want to hug her. Waiting another twenty minutes until my actual appointment time would have been miserable on so many fronts—just having those minutes of bladder pain and painful memories avoided is such a gift, such a grace, such an act of mercy.
She takes us to the same room we were in for our last ultrasound—eleven months ago—with a baby who did not wiggle, whose heart did not flutter—a room where my husband’s head sank into his hands near his chest, and I laid on the paper covered table feeling like the weight of thirty-five rainclouds suddenly laid upon my chest and I tried my uttermost to hold back the storms of tears.
Oh God, I silently close my eyelids for a moment and pray, redemption. Oh God, please! Redeem this room, I beg You!
Unbuttoning my jeans, I lay my head back. Since an intern is performing the scan, she gets started right away while her supervisor asks me all the preliminary questions from a nearby computer desk. Keep breathing. Keep answering questions. Don’t look at the screen. When was my last period? How many times have I been pregnant? How many live births? Do I have a history of miscarriage? Yes, clearly, I say with a small snark under my breath. At almost this exact moment, Steven squeezes my hand—I see the heartbeat! My head jerks to the left and cranes upward to see the screen he is scrutinizing. What?! I almost shriek, unbelieving. The sonography intern verbally agrees with him, and for a brief second I see that miraculous flutter. But now my eyes are full of tears and I can’t see anything.
Steven’s smile is ear to ear. He keeps squeezing my hand. I think he just kissed it. I realize the intern is moving on to scan my ovaries and other lady parts but promises to come back to show us more of our baby in a minute. I also realize the supervisor has continued asking me questions but I am not paying attention. Medications? Oh, umm, yes I definitely take medications. I can tell you what they all are if you want—she types quickly and logs my pills and my injections—she looks over at me and smiles with this understanding, compassionate smile—she gets that this is a big deal, a big moment, a big day, a big lifetime.
I focus on breathing. I keep reminding myself that things are okay, don’t burst into tears. Things get more quiet when the questions stop, except for the click, click, click of the ultrasound machine and the intern taking various measurements of things. My brain starts going backwards in time, and I remember other babies, other ultrasounds. I start getting scared again and whisper to Steven, I don’t want this one to be like Heritage—I’m afraid this will be like Heritage. She outgrew her sac, and I am so scared that such a thing might happen again. Steven keeps grinning at me and squeezing my hand though—not only more calm of spirit in general, but also having a much clearer and more direct view of the computer screen—he seems unfaltering, unwavering, solid. I cling to that. I repeat Psalm 46 to myself and sing a version of Joshua 1:9 under my breath that my dad taught me just this week.
Behold, I have said unto thee
Be strong and bold,
Neither fear nor dread.
For the Lord thy God is with thee,
whether so ever thou goest.
(William Tyndale translation, 1549)
Finally, we get to focus on seeing our baby. I am so thankful the sonographers call it our baby! No cold medical terms here, but warm familial words. They comfort us with their encouraging tones and phrases that reassure us things look okay. The sacs measure the right size, and we can easily see that precious little heart fluttering away! My bladder is so full that half the computer screen seems to be filled with a big black bubble—it’s even squishing the baby’s gestational sac to the point that it makes it hard to measure the baby’s size! They squish and squash things around, but finally realize that the only thing that will allow us to properly see our little baby is to let my bladder shrink a bit. Go to the bathroom, and try to go only partway, they say. I make a joke about needing to practice my Kegels anyway. I eagerly find the bathroom and do my best. While I wash my hands, I look at myself in the mirror—I can even tell that I look weary and petrified, almost old. I purse my lips, pinch my cheeks, tell myself to brighten up because the sun sure is shining today.
I return to the room and lie down again. The paper on the table is crunchy, and I giggle to myself thinking about how my kids would love to color on that stuff. They return to scanning my belly but quickly stop, laughing that I need to go back to the bathroom and try again—this time, she says, pee for a solid ten seconds before stopping, okay? Chuckling, I run back to the bathroom and decide to go for a full eleven. Why not.
It is such an indescribable relief to be chuckling in the middle of an ultrasound appointment!! Levity is not lost on me even at this moment when the world feels so heavy on my shoulders.
Back on the table again, with the warm gel squirted on my belly again, this time with the senior sonographer doing the work—there’s my baby. Oh bliss. No longer hidden and squished by my overfilled bladder, I can see those details I had basically convinced myself that I would never again see. Not quite big enough to look like a gummy bear with arms and legs moving around independently, but we are schooled enough in the world of first trimester ultrasounds that we can determine the crown to rump area, we can see the yolk sac, we can even see the umbilical cord connecting up to the placenta in my uterus. Measuring someone so small is no wee feat, but repeated measurements show that this tiny person is measuring exactly, precisely where it ought to, right down to the day. I have been everything but textbook with pregnancy in the past, so to walk the line of expected or average is a foreign thing to me, in any capacity.
Look at that heartbeat! It is the most miraculous movement in the world to my eyes. Flutter, flutter, flutter. Consistent and strong. Perfect. I am humbled. I breathe a deep sigh.
For You formed my inward parts;
You knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are Your works;
my soul knows it very well.
Pictures print off the ultrasound machine printer, and we are given black and white and grey blobs that are evidence of what the Lord is doing in secret, proof of life, confirmation of this crazy roller coaster we have been riding in recent weeks. I wipe the jelly off of my skin, button my jeans, say thank you repeatedly and emphatically—and thrust my things into Steven’s arms so I can hit the bathroom one last time for the full and final relief that only an empty bladder paired with a calm heart can give.
We walk out through the waiting room—holding hands & gripping ultrasound pictures with grins on our faces—like so many others who have innocently made that walk, climbed these steps, left this building. It feels unbelievably surreal to leave with hope renewed and joy strengthened—now that it’s over, I am willing to admit it—I expected to see death in my womb rather than life. To be surprised with the gift of life and hope leaves me speechless, but I have a dozen people waiting on pins and needs to hear the news.
As usual, I call my father first—I can hear the nerves in his voice, and I tell him quickly and plainly, everything looks good—and He praises God, he asks for details about his youngest grandchild, and he tells me repeatedly of his love for me.
Then I call my children. My mother answers the phone and I ask for my oldest son. Hi Mommy, we’re playing checkers! How’s the baby? Heart of my heart, I am so glad to hear your voice and so desperately thankful that I get to tell you that this time God said yes! Well sweetie, I have a picture here to bring you of our healthy little baby, who looks really good and everything is okay—and we get to thank God for this kindness! He says something about being glad and how he can’t wait to see me but he has to get back to his game of checkers.
I speak to my younger son—Hi Mommy, I miss you! Are you coming home? I smile to myself, not even actually sure which of my younger children it is for a moment—yes, sweetie, we will be home soon. And the baby is alive and healthy, so I will bring you a picture, okay?
I ask to talk to my mother, the one who didn’t want to be called. I figure they told me hormone numbers and lab results when I had specifically told them I didn’t want to know so it’s payback time—and I speak to her, telling her that her seventeenth grandchild is alive, healthy, perfect. I hear the relief in her voice, she almost doesn’t know what to say. Perhaps she is as surprised as I am that we have good news today.
That’s enough phone calls for now. There will be more phone calls and emails to compose later. For right now, though, I just want to be driven around by my husband, hold his hand, smile at one another surreptitiously, stare at these pictures of my little child—the one I will dream of and long for in ways that only I can—as I snuggle my Sweet Teen in my womb and head off for a celebratory lettuce-wrapped cheeseburger.
And so for this moment, suddenly and surprisingly, all feels right and beautiful with the world.
How precious to me are Your thoughts, O God!
How vast is the sum of them!
If I would count them, they are more than the sand.
I awake, and I am still with You.
Thank you for entering this part of my world with me. Thank you for letting me share my perspective, as I lend you my lenses to see the world as I see it through my own experiences and frame. God is good. And there is more yet to come.